Rubble Fill's Exemption May Have Been In Error

April 05, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

Harford administrators may have mistakenly exempted a proposed expansion at an Abingdon rubble fill from a law regulating such dumps, a county lawyer said last week.

The County Council in January added an 18-acre expansion at the Spencer Sand & Gravel Inc. dump to Harford's solid-waste management plan, thinking the company was exempt from the rubble fill law.

The proposed expansion has been the topic of debate among many Abingdon residents, some of whom oppose the plan.

"If they're included in the plan but they can't comply to the law, they can't do business," Council President Jeffrey Wilson said. "Everybody has to comply with the law."

Spencer is seeking a permit from the state Department of the Environment to expand its Abingdon Road rubble fill, now 51acres. The company must be included in the county's solid-waste planto get the permit.

To be exempt from the rubble fill law, dump operators had to obtain or apply for a state disposal permit by Feb. 12, 1991.

County administrators have learned that Spencer didn't apply for a state permit for its proposed expansion until three weeks after the cutoff date for exemptions, Deputy County Attorney Jefferson Blomquist said.

Spencer would meet some, but not all, of the county's rubble fill regulations. The regulations, enacted in March 1991, require dumps to be at least 100 acres in size and at least 1,000 feet from the nearest structure.

Spencer has a total of 137 acres at its rubble fill, in operation since the late 1970s. The dump is about700 feet from the Woodland Run neighborhood.

To determine whetherSpencer is exempt from the law, the county is waiting to hear from the state Environment Department to see what the official application date was when the company sought its disposal permit, Blomquist said.

A copy of the company's state application obtained by The HarfordCounty Sun is dated March 6, 1991. A department spokesman said, however, that the agency had been speaking with Spencer representatives for several months before the company formally applied for the permit.

"We'll have to find out and take action," Blomquist said. "That would create a problem for Spencer."

If the county rules that Spencer is not exempt from the rubble fill law, the company would have to seek a variance from the Zoning Hearing Board to continue pursuing plans for the expansion, he said.

County Planning Director William Carroll sent Spencer a letter in May 1991 detailing the requirements of the rubble fill law. He also asked for documentation to show that Spencer was exempt from the law.

Spencer consultant Arthur E. Leonard responded with a letter saying the company already has a permit for part of its property and has applied for a permit for the expansion.

Leonard, of K.L.S. Consultants Inc. of Bel Air, provided Carrollwith a 1988 letter from the Environment Department updating the status of its reviews.

Based on the letters, county administrators cleared the way for the company to get its expansion into the county's solid-waste management plan, Blomquist said.

The council then addedthe Spencer expansion to the solid-waste plan.

County administrators believe the documents provided by Spencer concern changes to the company's 1987 operating permit but not the expansion, Blomquist said.

Blomquist and other county administrators began looking into thedocuments after Abingdon residents monitoring the Spencer operation questioned whether the company was exempt from the dump law.

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